Hunt on for con­trol of par­ish coun­cils

JLP seeks to take com­mand PNP ex­pects to re­main in charge

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Erica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer erica.virtue@glean­erjm.com

IN LESS than 36 hours, the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) will see if its cam­paign to tar­get the most in­flu­en­tial par­ish coun­cils in the is­land has paid off, as Ja­maicans vote in the tra­di­tion­ally low-turnout lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions to­mor­row.

The JLP is fac­ing a 14-0 deficit for con­trol, in­clud­ing the Port­more Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The key coun­cils be­ing tar­geted in­clude the 40-coun­cil Kingston and St An­drew Cor­po­ra­tion (KSAC), St Cather­ine (41), Claren­don (22), Port­more Mu­nic­i­pal­ity (12), St Ann (16), and St James (17). Max­i­mum con­trol, though un­likely, of the named coun­cils could see the party hav­ing more than half of the 228 di­vi­sions be­ing sought, and in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties which wield the most power. Those coun­cils, as well as Manch­ester, col­lect com­bined bil­lions in rev­enue for cen­tral gov­ern­ment from prop­erty taxes and fees payable to the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie is one of the voices of the JLP’s me­dia cam­paign, as well as for the party’s coun­cil­lors/can­di­dates. McKen­zie, a for­mer Kingston mayor, said all coun­cils were im­por­tant.

“Ev­ery coun­cil is im­por­tant to the party and the pro­gramme we want to see through for the bet­ter­ment of the Ja­maican peo­ple. So, no one coun­cil is more im­por­tant than the other, but we have tar­geted some and so we are putting out ef­forts where we be­lieve we will get the best re­turns,” McKen­zie said.

With an un­con­tested elec­tronic and print me­dia cam­paign, the JLP could be mis­taken for the only party con­test­ing the elec­tions, ex­cept for a few or­ange flags in some com­mu­ni­ties.

How­ever, the Op­po­si­tion Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) has nearly two coun­cil­lors to ev­ery one JLP in the 13 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, as well as Port­more. The PNP has 150, the JLP 76 and there are two in­de­pen­dents (for­mer JLP mayor of Lucea Lester Crooks in River­side, Hanover, and Paul Pat­more in Lor­rimers, Trelawny South).

The num­bers are not lost on McKen­zie.

“We in­tend to go in the trenches and fight for these di­vi­sions. And we ex­pect that bar­ring any un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances the voter turnout will be low, but we are hop­ing that the peo­ple of Ja­maica will carry us across the fin­ish line,” he said dur­ing a mo­tor­cade in Golden Grove, St Ann, just over a week ago.

To­mor­row’s polls is be­ing held un­der the cloud of the $600 mil­lion road-bush­ing controversy, which JLP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Dr Horace Chang has called a “co­in­ci­dence”. The pro­gramme is now be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Con­trac­tor Gen­eral Dirk Har­ri­son.

The elec­tion is also be­ing run un­der the veil of dis­en­fran­chise­ment of nearly 4,900 reg­is­tered elec­tors fol­low­ing the Supreme Courts’ boundary rul­ing in St Cather­ine.

GROUND CAM­PAIGN

PNP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Paul Burke, as well as gen­eral sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Ju­lian Robin­son, said the party ex­pects to re­tain ma­jor­ity con­trol. Burke said the cam­paign has been strate­gic for two rea­sons.

“One, we have mainly ran a ground cam­paign based on our phi­los­o­phy of our core val­ues. Sec­ond, our cam­paign has been im­pacted by funds. Any­one will tell you that the cam­paign will vary from di­vi­sion to di­vi­sion and from par­ish to par­ish. And the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions is dif­fer­ent from the gen­eral elec­tions,” said Burke.

He said the PNP coun­cil­lors who re­fused to sign the Po­lit­i­cal Code of Con­duct have given the party a “com­mit­ment that they will ad­here to ev­ery facet of the code, but feel so strongly about those who have signed and not ad­hered. So they will not sign.”

Ac­cord­ing to Burke, un­der the pro­gramme, $79 mil­lion has been spent in Kingston and $69 mil­lion in Claren­don in a to­tally po­lit­i­cal man­ner. The bush­ing controversy is di­rectly linked to the non-sig­na­tory, he noted.

“I want some­one to tell me if more money shouldn’t be spent in Claren­don than in Kingston,” he queried.

Mean­while, Di­rec­tor of Elec­tions Orette Fisher said he was con­fi­dent that all would be in place for to­mor­row, with 489 can­di­dates vy­ing for votes in the 16th lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

“Vot­ers are en­cour­aged to check the web­site to see where they are sup­posed to vote. It is highly un­likely that the polling di­vi­sion where you voted in the gen­eral elec­tion will change, but there may be in­stances where the num­bers have grown, caus­ing a split. So that’s why it’s im­por­tant to check,” said the EOJ boss.

He said Elec­tronic Voter Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Bal­lot Is­sue Sys­tem (EVIBIS) will be used in the same seven con­stituen­cies as was done in the gen­eral elec­tion.

EVIBIS has been used in se­lect lo­ca­tions and con­stituen­cies since 2007 and will be used in St Cather­ine Eastern; Kingston Cen­tral; Kingston East and Port Royal; and St An­drew West­ern, South East, Eastern, and West Cen­tral.

Vot­ers are en­cour­aged to check the [EOJ] web­site to see where they are sup­posed to vote.

With an un­con­tested elec­tronic and print me­dia cam­paign, the JLP could be mis­taken for the only party con­test­ing the elec­tions, ex­cept for a few or­ange flags in some com­mu­ni­ties.

PNP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Paul Burke, as well as gen­eral sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Ju­lian Robin­son, said the party ex­pects to re­tain ma­jor­ity con­trol.

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